The origin of the term Skyscraper dates back to the 1880s, when advancements in construction materials made it possible for buildings to be taller than the usual three or four stories. The earliest skyscrapers were between 10 and 20 stories, towering over their shorter neighbors and seeming to touch the heavens. Today even some of the buildings have upwards of 100 stories. As such, the term "skyscraper" has no numerical requirement. Instead it refers to any tall, continuously habitable building that sticks significantly up over the other buildings in the surrounding area.

The Advancements that Spawned Skyscrapers

It is Henry Bessemer, the inventor of the decarbonization process that turns iron into steel, who is credited with making the construction of skyscrapers possible. A steel frame was able to support much more weight than the masonry in use at the time, opening up a whole realm of vertical construction that would eventually infiltrate everything from financial planning to real estate. Electric pumps also made it possible to supply water to the higher floors of tall buildings and the invention of the elevator made it possible to quickly move the building's occupants between floors.

The First Skyscraper

The first building to bear the name "skyscraper" was the ten storey Home Insurance Building in Chicago. It was designed by architect Major William LeBaron Jenney and was the first building to be supported by an inner steel skeleton rather than by its exterior walls. Despite the city's concern over its relatively light weight, the building was successfully occupied by office workers pursuing stocks, bonds, and network marketing leads for nearly fifty years before it was torn down to make way for a bigger building. Its legacy lives on, however, as its steel frame inspired a revolution in the load-bearing structure of buildings.

Image of the Home Insurance Building

Modern Skyscrapers

Though skyscrapers first became popular as financial offices at the end of the 19th century in cities like New York, Chicago and London, where the downtown areas were running low on land, modern skyscrapers serve many purposes. They're built to house residential units as well as offices for companies specializing in everything from liaising with government agencies to mighty condominiums for sale. Toronto, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, London, and other big cities still lead the world in numbers of skyscrapers. However, outlying metropolitan areas like Burnaby and San Diego and up-and-coming cities in developing areas like India, China and the Middle East are quickly catching up.

Competing for the Tallest Skyscraper

The race to steal the tallest skyscraper title from its current holder is as vicious and fast-paced as class action suits in Canada. The first five record holders: the Flatiron building, the Woolworth building, the Chrysler building, the Empire State building, and the World Trade Center all belong to New York. They were surpassed in 1974 by the Sears Tower in Chicago. The first non-American record holder was the Patronas Towers in Kaula Lumpur, Malaysia in 1997. Since then the pace has picked up, with Taiwan's Taipei 101 taking over the title in 2004 and the as-yet uncompleted Burj Dubai in the United Arab Emirates poised to take over.

Copyright 2007 - Industry Innovation -

Monday, May 10, 2021